Got a question on collection of debt.
    We have enforced our contracts in the California small claims court arena and have obtained judgments for money owed us by dead-beat customers.  Many of these X customers seem to care less and still don't pay up, even with a judgment in place.  Now what to do?
    It seems quite the challenge to skip-trace these people and / or try to ID assets to attach them.   Do you have any suggestions for helping us collect money owed to us with good judgments in hand?
    I was told there are companies out there that will buy this 'paper' at a discounted rate and / or attorneys that will take the paper and try to collect on a contingency basis.
    What could I expect to pay for this luxury?  Are there any reputable companies for this that you would recommend?
    Love to here from you on this,
Security Warning Systems
    I might know a few things about collections.  My office has 6 lawyers devoted to our Alarm Collection Department, and back up of 2 litigation attorneys with specialty in the alarm industry.  We do a lot of collection work for the alarm industry in New York and New Jersey.  By end of February we should be set up to handle alarm collection and other legal work in Florida and Connecticut.  Furthermore, we will support our Standard Form Agreements all over the country through the arbitration proceedings, so we have you covered.  I should also mention that I am a United States Bankruptcy Trustee here in New York, which gives me additional perspective in collection and debt recovery matters.
    But even we can't extract blood from a stone.  You apparently have learned that when it comes to collection litigation or any litigation for that matter, getting the judgment is only the first half of the battle often the easier half.  Collecting that judgment is the hard part, especially when you're talking about consumer debt as opposed to commercial subscriber debt [assuming the business is still operating].  If you think alarm law is complicated and hard to comply with, "you aint seen nothing yet" until you see the Fair Debt Collection Practice Act, other consumer protection laws, consumer protection proceedings, over worked and unfriendly court personnel, over worked and outright hostile judges, laws affecting enforcement of judgments, including generous exemptions available to debtors, and finally bankruptcy law protection.  
    Having crucial information sometimes makes a difference.  Start with the correct name and address of the debtor.  Social security number; work or employment information; banking information.  Be sure you have done whatever is required in your state to perfect your lower court judgment so that it becomes a lien against any real property the debtor owns.  Often you can sit back and wait for the debtor to want to sell the property in which event you'll get paid.  Hopefully that happens before a bank forecloses its mortgage and wipes out your judgment.  You can issue wage executions and attach other payments, but it's unlikely that you will be able to do this without a lawyer, unless of course you want to quit your day job to pursue these debts.  
    Selling your judgments isn't going to be productive enough to bother.  You are lucky to get 5 cents on the dollar and more likely to get 1 or 2 cents on the dollar.  If you have enough of this debt to making selling profitable you're most likely going out of business anyway from attrition.
    Using a collection agency could be risky.  I hear about too many of them absconding with your money and disappearing.  Even the honest ones are not likely to have any better luck than you, and the more aggressive they become the more you'll be at risk for consumer complaints.  Also, if you're going to resort to a collection agency you may as well engage them to get the judgment too; it's going to be the same one third of the recovery fee.  But I'd stay clear of the collection agencies.  Better to find a collection lawyer [if for some reason you don't want to engage my firm - and even if you do we'll need to work with your local lawyer at some point in the process] to pursue your litigation and collection matters.  Be careful to use someone who knows the alarm industry if you can find such person in your area.  Some of the very reputable "alarm industry lawyers" won't touch collection work, but you can ask.  
    Collection matters can be profitable for your business.  However, you're going to have to have enough of it for it to make sense.  A handful of cases for few thousand dollars each may not warrant getting started in the first place.  If you have to go to court and lose a day or more you may find it's worthwhile.  If you have enough of it however then you should be rewarded with a steady flow of money coming in and your internal collection personnel will be involved, not your technicians.  We represent many alarm clients for their litigation and collection work and it's a great source of money for some and ultimately waste of time for others.  Since I've had the collection department of my practice for 38 years we must be doing something right - for us and our clients.  If you have our Standard Form Agreements and you're interested in our collection services, please contact Kathleen Lampert at 516 747 6700 ext 319,  Gene Rosen, Esq. at 516 747 6700 ext 303 or Jesse Kirschenbaum, Esq. at 516 747 6700 317.